Its no longer news that Nigeria has crashed out of the 26th ACN in Ghana and to Ghana's Black Stars.
The Fourteen Years Theory was beginning to look good after Nigeria was able to qualify from the Group stages due to a fluke. Several commentators had gone to town with all sorts of permutations both logical and illogical- and trust us Nigerians, we love to make up good stories.
One particularly good one was about 'Injured Skippers' that goes thus: It somehow was revealed that at the 1980 ACN Skipper Christian Chukwu was actually nursing an injury but because of his enormous influence on the players - most of who were from his Rangers International FC, Coach Otto Gloria had to keep him on the team and he played all the matches in the ACN that year when Nigeria won.
In 1994, Skipper Stephen Keshi was injured even before the ACN in Tunisia but because of his charisma, the Coach Clemens Westerhof put him in the team and actually dressed him for all the matches even though he never got to kick the ball. He was always in track bottoms until the last match when he took them off and collected the Captain's band from the substantive captain Austin Eguavoen in order to receive the trophy.
In 2008, Skipper Nwankwo Kanu was injured in the very first match against Ivory Coast and he was not likely to recover anytime soon. Presto! That was all that the Fourteen Year Theorists needed. Notice that Kanu was actually dressed for that match against Ghana even though we all knew he could not play. Probably as a psychological tonic for the boys.
But alas! The Fourteen Year Theory failed. Nigeria crashed out for the first time at the quarter-finals of an ACN.
The match itself lived up to its billing. It had been tagged The Fiftieth World War (WW50) by the press. It is the fiftieth time Nigeria and Ghana would be meeting in a football match both competitive and otherwise. And every time the two sides meet, it is war! There is nothing like a 'friendly' match between Nigeria and Ghana. The rivalry is so intense that many Nigerians are actually relieved that we lost to Ghana and not any other team in the competition. 'Our time will come' is the consolation. As it stands now Ghana has won 18; Nigeria won 17 with 15 drawn games. It was 17-17-15 as at kickoff. I sincerely don't know where they got these stats but it was repeated several times during commentaries.
I'm pretty sure Herr Berti Vogts did not know what he was getting himself into when he took this job but now he should have an idea. One could notice some changes in the pattern of play particularly after the Mali misadventure when Nigeria fielded a whole 5 (five!) attackers while Mali fielded five midfielders and none of them could find the goals! It was laughable!
I had never thought I would live to see the day that Nigerians would rejoice over defeating their Beninois neighbors by a mere two goals to nothing but saw it I did. Nigerians actually popped champagne because of that. I mean, just when did we come to this? Its a scandal!
If I was impressed by the little improvement in the team after they reverted back to Wingplay, it was shortlived because of the horrendous changes made by Herr Vogts.
It was a delight watching Osaze Odemwingie running on the flanks in the match against Ghana. The Ghanaians had a tough time keeping up with him and he switched from the right to the left so often that he frustrated the Ghanaian captain John Mensah into committing a red carded foul. The new boy, Uche Ikechukwu was also a sensation. Thank God the Spaniards did not get him to play for them. It would have been a great loss to Nigeria.
Danny Shittu was very mobile even with his bulk and he was very good at checking the Ghanaian attackers. One would have loved to see him more in a libero role but he had to fall back too often to cover up for Taye Taiwo. And the bros in the middle that was supposed to do the finishing was absent most of the time except when Uche presented him with a penalty kick to score from. Yakubu Ayegbeni was a disappointment.
What we need is someone in the mould of a Rashidi Yekini, a finisher par excellence or even a Victor Agali. Someone with a nose for goals. Ayegbeni seems only to perform against slow defenders and Martins was just not effective in Vogts 4-3-3 pattern. Mikel Obi was very effective in the middle and Dickson Etuhu was also very effective as his silent assistant though we didn't notice that until when Etuhu was injured.
Against a formidable midfield with Michael Essien, Sulleyman Muntari and Gyang, it was not a mean feat for the young men to cope and contain the Ghanaians but when Etuhu had to go out,(the game was at a 1-1 draw and we obviously needed more goals) and Herr Vogts replaced him with Richard Eromoigbe, a defensive midfielder who actually played right full back at the last ACN - I wondered 'What was he smoking?'
When we were one goal behind, (and the Ghanaians were down to ten men) he removed Mikel Obi and brought in Obi Nsofor who really had no role to play in the match, the guy just kept running around (I don't want to say like a headless chicken). Even Kanu was disgusted, you could see it on his face. I mean, where did they get this guy from?
Take nothing away from the Ghanaians. Michael Essien was a very effective leader in the team even before he put on the captains band and when he moved back to replace the ousted J. Mensah, I was expecting the Eagles to over run the midfield by simple majority but Essien did a yeoman's job there. I was impressed.
Even that Ghanaian joke called 'Junior'Agogo stepped up his game a notch against Nigeria. The commentators had said what Agogo lacked in technique he made up with 'gra gra'. His 'gra gra' eventually paid off as he scored the second goal from beside a flat footed Taye Taiwo.
As for me, immediately the referee raised up his hands and blew the final whistle, I just switched channels to watch 'Desperate Housewives' Season 4.